Our country is experiencing a drug epidemic. 100 people die a day from drug overdoses. Heroin is taking out entire cities. People are becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers. Meth labs are everywhere.
But all is not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, a recent graduate from Vertava Health of Texas, Angie.
Angie’s story is one of pain and denial, but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Angie is proof. Read on.
What is your background? What led you to using?
I had a major trauma in my life when I was 11 years old: I was raped by my step-father. After it happened, I told my mother and she made me promise not to tell a soul. And for 32 years, I never told anyone. I got married, I didn’t tell my husband; I had two children. I just kept it to myself.
When my oldest daughter turned 18, she had some drug problems and wound up in a mental hospital. Because she was 18, she was technically an adult, so I wasn’t able to be a part of everything that was going on – and that was so stressful on me. My second daughter was more of a handful than the first – she was just more argumentative and demanding than my older daughter, and she became a bigger challenge in my life.
But with everything going on, I kept everything bottled up inside of me. I started having flashbacks to my trauma, and having nightmares. I was shutting down. That started putting more strain on my relationship with my husband, and we started having marital problems.
I finally went to the doctor for my nightmares and sleeping problems, and I was prescribed Ambien. And that was the beginning of it.
What happened after that?
I would take my Ambien and go to sleep and I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to remember, I didn’t have to feel, and I didn’t have to worry. When I took the pills, I didn’t have to be a mom or a wife. I would just go to sleep.
How did the addiction progress? What was your pattern?
At first, I was just using it at night and then on my days off. Eventually, I started taking it everyday. I’d go to fill my prescription, and five days later they would all be gone.
When did you first get help for your trauma and addiction?
My husband kept telling me I needed to go get help with the Ambien. So finally, I told him about the rape.
I enrolled in outpatient therapy near my home and got counseling for the rape.They put me on an antidepressant and addressed some of the trauma, but not so much the drugs. It lasted maybe about 6 weeks. I told everyone that I stopped taking the medication, but I was still taking it – just hiding it.
How did you get into Vertava Health of Texas?
For almost a year after I got counseling, my husband kept asking me to go to rehab. I kept telling him I didn’t need to go, I wasn’t addicted, I didn’t need rehab. In the back of my head and in my heart, I knew I needed help. But I was too proud as a woman and as a mother to admit I needed help.
Finally, I woke up one morning – it was a Wednesday – and I only had 2 more pills left. I started having anxiety about not having enough. When I wasn’t taking the pills, everything would come rushing back to me. So I laid in bed and cried and cried. My husband had taken my younger daughter to school and he was at work. So I called him and told him I was ready to go to rehab.
By that Friday morning, I was at Vertava Health of Texas.
What was it like when you arrived?
In my mind, the only thing I knew was the mental hospital that my daugher had been to. I thought that’s what rehab was going to be like. I thought I was going to be locked in a room by myself. I didn’t want that. I wasn’t mentally ill – I was an addict.
When I got to The Treehouse, it wasn’t like a mental hospital at all. Right when I arrived, I met one of the nurses, Amy. She didn’t introduce herself right away, but she said I looked like I needed a hug – and she gave me the longest, most reassuring hug.
I met Bev shortly after that – I thought she worked there – but she was a patient just like me. Everyone that was there became my family. I truly felt like they were my brothers and sisters.
What is the most important thing you learned about yourself while in treatment?
I learned I was a very brave person. I dealt with my trauma the best way I could deal with it – and I asked for help. I denied help for so long, but in asking for help, I was brave.
What would you tell someone who has also been through a trauma?
First and foremost, it’s not your fault. It is not your fault. You need to forgive yourself. You don’t have to forgive the person that did it to you. But you can forgive yourself. And you need to let someone in to help you with it – because you can’t do it all on your own. And that’s ok.
How is your family healing together?
With my husband – our relationship is almost like it was when we first got married. At first, he didn’t understand that I still have triggers and cravings, even after rehab. Instead of reaching for pills, I use my coping skills. So he is adjusting to it and we are working on it together.
My oldest daughter is very understand and our relationship is healing. With my second daughter though, it’s taking more time. I wasn’t there for her for almost 5 years of her childhood. I was physically there, but mentally, I wasn’t available. I embarrassed her and let her down. But I’ve promised her that I will never let that happen again, and we are working so hard to build that trust back up.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go to Vertava Health of Texas?
The Treehouse (Vertava Health of Texas) saved my life. The staff and counselors were loving and welcoming. They really care about you. I had such a tremendous experience bonding with everyone that I met there. They are truly like a family to me.
What keeps you sober each day?
I feel so good now. I have energy to do things. I have time with my children and my husband.
I thank God everyday that He let me wake up that morning. I was taking so many Ambien, I was taking enough to be lethal. But He knew there was something more for me. He knew my purpose here and knew I hadn’t reached it yet.
If you’ve experienced trauma in your life and are using a substance, it is important to find the right therapist. While Angie was able to talk through her trauma with her first outpatient therapist, she wasn’t treated for the entire problem. We recommend locating a residential treatment center that specializes in trauma and addiction, like Vertava Health of Texas. Finding the right program can make the difference between resolving traumas, and living in pain, shame and guilt.